This captivating letter was written by Pvt. David Watson Sharpe (1843-1926) of Co. B, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery. The regimental roster tells us that David was from Derby, New Haven county, Connecticut, and that he enlisted on 22 May 1861. In January 1864, he reenlisted as a veteran and mustered out with his regiment on 25 September 1865.
David was the 19 year-old son of Lugrand Thomas Sharp (1797-1876) — a shoemaker in Seymour, New Haven, Connecticut. David’s mother was Olive Maria Booth (1804-1864). He wrote the letter to his brother, William Carvosso Sharp (1839-1924).
The 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery Duty garrisoned Fort Richardson near Washington D. C. until May 1864 except for Batteries B and M which were detached with the Army of the Potomac in December 1862 and played a minor role in the Battle of Fredericksburg Dec. 12-15. They arrived at Falmouth, Virginia, with four 4.5 inch siege rifles and were assigned to the artillery reserve.
[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Richard D. Weiner.]
Camp near Fredericksburg
1st Regt. Co. B, Connecticut Volunteer Artillery
January 1st 1863
I wish you a Happy New Year. I suppose you have been wondering why I have not answered your letter before. We left Fort Richardson the 2nd of December and were told that we were going to take a battery of the siege guns and assist in the taking of Fredericksburg — also that we would be back in two weeks. We were ordered to leave everything behind except our shelter tents, overcoats, and one blanket. After we got here, General Burnside said he should keep us with the army so we sent for the knapsacks and received them yesterday.
This battle has proved an entire failure. We occupy the same position we did before the battle. Our battery is planted on a hill about half a mile from Fredericksburg with the river between. We could see about half of the battleground. Our men fought like tigers but it was of no use. They charged on the rebel batteries three times and were met by a terrible shower of grape & canister shot, shell and bullets which mowed them down by hundreds. Our army is all back this side of the river again.
I had an adventure with the rebs the day after our army recrossed the river. I was doing down to a spring near the river to fill a canteen when a squad of rebels fired at me. The bullets struck pretty close to me. I filled my canteen and went back, they firing at me as long as I was in sight. I put up my canteen, borrowed an Enfield rifle and went down to give them a little back. I got behind a haystack and commenced firing at them. I shot at one fellow just as he was drawing bead on me over a little ridge — only his head and breast was in sight. I think my bullet went through his heart for his gun went off in the air, the bullet whistling over my head, and he fell dead across the ridge. The body lay there a few minutes when one of his comrades reached over, took the body by the feet and dragged it behind the ridge. I wounded another one so he had to be carried off on a stretcher. I fired about a dozen shots. They fired several shots pretty close to me.
The pickets do not fire at each other now. The rebels are throwing up breastworks on the opposite side of the river. What do you think of Burnside now? I think that Little Mac is the only man fit to lead this army. The army is discontented and a great many say they will not cross the river again under Burnside. McClellan is more popular than ever with the army.
No more at present. — D. W. S.